DIY Projects Spoons

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard

How two furniture-refinishing neophytes successfully converted a dresser into a sideboard – and what we learned in the process.

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Hubby and I have a small kitchen with limited counter space, only a few cabinets and just two drawers. At the far end, there is an empty space that cried out for a sideboard.

SpoonsandHooks-Sideboard-Space
Isn’t this empty space just crying out for a sideboard?

When we first moved into our house and needed extra kitchen storage quickly, we ordered online a large kitchen cart with two drawers and two shelves to put in that empty space. It helped somewhat, but it wasn’t a satisfactory solution. Since it was too much trouble to return it, we made do with it for four years. Then, I discovered the idea of converting a used dresser into a sideboard.

In this blog post I’m going to give you an unvarnished (so to speak) account of how we – two furniture refinishing neophytes – went about converting a dresser into a custom sideboard that exceeded our expectations – including how me made, and overcame, a couple mistakes along the way.

(This isn’t a recipe or a crochet pattern, but since it’s for the kitchen I decided it can go under “Spoons.”)

First, I haunted Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and our local Facebook swap group for a couple of weeks until I found this simple, classic dresser listed for $30 on Facebook Marketplace. It was a perfect fit for our space at 54″ wide (a full foot wider than our kitchen cart) and 17″ deep. Its height of 34.5″ was a little short – we wanted 36″ high, i.e. counter height – but we thought we might be able to do something about that.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
The seller’s photo of the dresser.

When we went to see the dresser, we found it was marked as having been made in 2009 and was wood veneer over solid wood with an MDF back. In addition to being the right proportions, we were especially pleased to find that the three top drawers were roomy and ran smoothly. Did I mention that our kitchen only has two drawers? We desperately needed more drawers! The dresser came home with us.

Step 1: Remove parts we don’t need

Our vision for the structure of the sideboard was to keep the top drawers, but open up the bottom and add a shelf to the larger compartment to create storage for our slow cooker, rice cooker and other larger kitchen items.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
The dresser stripped of all the parts we didn’t need.

We unscrewed the hinges and removed the cabinet door, and unscrewed and removed the bottom drawer runners.

All of the door and drawer hardware had been attached to extra blocks of wood that seemed to be attached to the inside of the dresser with screws, but when we removed the screws, we discovered the blocks were glued on as well, so we used a hammer and chisel (gently!) to remove them.

We removed the horizontal strip of wood between the bottom drawers by sawing it through the middle and pulling out the two halves, which were held in place only by wood pegs that left behind large holes.

Since we wanted to change the hardware on the upper drawers, we unscrewed and removed the knobs.

We filled the holes left by the pegs and drawer knobs using JB Weld 8257 Kwik-Wood wood repair epoxy putty.

Step 2: Add parts we do need

Our sideboard was shaping up, but we still faced three structural issues:

  1. The inside of both open storage areas looked “raw” and unfinished.
  2. The larger compartment, which had originally contained drawers, lacked a floor, and we also wanted to add a shelf.
  3. We wanted to increase the sideboard’s height to 36″ if possible.

We decided to panel the inside of both open storage areas with bead board, and bought a single 8×4′ sheet. So that we could fit it in our car, we had it cut into four 4×2′ pieces in the store, which they did for free.

Because the larger open area had a board running up the middle of the back, in order for the bead board to lie flat we added supports to the sides. Hubby took one of the pieces of wood we removed in step 1 and used his miter saw to cut blocks of the same thickness as the middle board, then we turned the sideboard on its back and glued the blocks into place using Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Glue Max.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
Note the blocks of wood glued into place, three on each side.

After the glue on the blocks had dried, and with the sideboard still on its back, we cut pieces of bead board to fit the backs of the two bottom compartments and glued them in place. Then we cut pieces to cover the sides of both compartments and glued them on, holding them in place using clamps and strips of wood braced against them.

After we glued in the bead board, we measured the inside of the large compartment and cut two pieces of wood to make the floor and a shelf. After letting the bead board dry overnight, we installed the floor using two screws to attach it to the board running across the back, and three L-brackets to attach it to the strip of wood across the front. Hubby counter-sunk the two screws and I spackled over them so the floor would be smooth. We decided to install the shelf after painting was complete.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
The dresser turned upside down to show how a bottom was installed in the large compartment, supported by three L-brackets in the front (the back was screwed into a board).

We were concerned that glue alone might not be enough to keep the bead board secure and it might start to detach with time. The back pieces were held in place by the side pieces, and the bottom of all the bead board in the large compartment was held in place by the floor, but there was nothing but glue holding the tops of the side pieces, and the bottoms in the small compartment. Since the tops of the side pieces wouldn’t be visible under the drawers, we simply secured them with a screw in each corner. In the small compartment we secured the two bottom front corners with screws, since they also weren’t visible; the two bottom back corners, which are visible, we secured with 1/2″ brads hammered into grooves to hide them. Now we were confident our bead board paneling would stay in place.

Finally, we bought four round “bun” feet made of solid wood with a pre-installed bolt in the top, that were 1/5″ high and 2″ in diameter. We turned the sideboard upside down and attached the feet by drilling a hole slightly smaller than the bolt precisely in the middle of each leg, and then screwing on the feet. Not only did they instantly transform the sideboard’s height to the desired 36″, they also fit the style of the piece perfectly.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
The dresser with bead board paneling inside the compartments, a floor added to the larger compartment, and its height augmented by adding wood “bun” feet.

Step 3: Prepare to paint

In steps 1 and 2, Hubby did more of the work since he is handier with power tools, so I took all of the prepping and painting. My goal for prepping was to fill some small gaps in the open storage areas, degloss the varnish, and then prime the whole piece.

This is where I did something I now wish I hadn’t. While doing research for this project I had read about using caulk, and I decided to caulk all the seams inside the open storage areas as I thought it would give the sideboard a more professional, finished look. It turned out to be harder to get a smooth, even seam than I had expected. I spent a lot of time wiping up excess caulk with wet paper towels, but because it was white caulk on white bead board, I missed some. I discovered this the next morning after it had dried, so I lost more time carefully scraping it off.

I realized later that the primer would have gone a long way towards sealing most of the seams. If I had it to do over again, I would have waited until after applying the primer to go back and fill any remaining gaps with spackle, not caulk.

If the caulking step was harder and messier than I had anticipated, happily the deglossing step was much quicker and easier. I had expected a messy, smelly process, but I simply used Klean-Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser to thoroughly wipe all the varnished areas (while wearing gloves), and it did the job with very little odor.

After the sideboard dried thoroughly from the deglossing step, I wiped it down using an old T-shirt to remove any residue and then applied Benjamin Moore Advance interior paint primer. I used a 4″ high-density foam roller for the flat areas, and a 2″ Wooster Brush Q3211-2 Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush for the corners and rounded areas. I was very happy I’d discovered this brush, as it dealt with small, detailed areas quickly and efficiently.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
The sideboard after priming. The drawers and shelf are off-camera.

The priming step revealed an issue we hadn’t noticed before: there was a narrow decorative groove cut around the front and side edges of the top that was extremely difficult to get primer into. Realizing that groove would probably trap crumbs once the sideboard was put into service in the kitchen, I decided to fill it with spackle and then sand it smooth.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
Filling that annoying groove on the sideboard’s top with spackle.

Up to this point I had been doing all sanding by hand, but after spackling that decorative groove I was struggling to get a smooth surface on the sideboard’s top. That was when I decided to buy a Black & Decker BDEMS600 Mouse Detail Sander. Fortunately I was able to get one-day delivery on Amazon Prime. I was so glad I got that sander, as it made short work of smoothing the spackling on the top surface using 120 grit sandpaper. I wished I’d had it from the beginning of the project.

The new additions – the bead board, wood floor and wood feet – were fully covered by a single coat of primer, but the dark stain was still showing through on all the original parts, so I gave them a second coat. I used the sander with 240 grit sandpaper sandpaper to go over the flat surfaces of the sideboard after each primer coat; the rounded surfaces I sanded by hand.

Step 4: Paint!

This step was the most exciting for me because I finally could see our vision for the sideboard becoming reality – but it was also the slowest. We had decided to use Benjamin Moore Advance interior satin paint because of its reputation for “leveling” well for a smooth finish. However, it requires 16 hours of drying time between coats, which meant that realistically I could apply only one coat per day.

Hubby has a colonial blue bookcase in his home office and we both love its color, so we took a shelf from it to our paint store to have the color matched for the sideboard.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
The information for our custom color paint.

Note that our paint has the warning “Calculated match quality may not be accurately predicted.” This turned out to be true in our case. When wet, our custom paint does appear to be an exact match to what we wanted, but when it dries it becomes a shade or two darker. Luckily, that’s not a problem for us.

It took just two coats of the blue paint to completely cover the sideboard, drawer fronts and shelf. Again, I used a 4″ high-density foam roller for the flat areas, and a 2″ Wooster Brush Q3211-2 Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush for the corners and rounded areas. The drawers and shelf I painted with the surfaces flat, not vertical, to get an especially level finish.

Wanting as professional a finish as possible, I was slow and careful about this step, and so each coat took me about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. I did the first coat on a Friday evening after work and the second the following Saturday afternoon. The shelf needed two coats on both sides, so one side got its second coat on Sunday afternoon, and the other side on Monday morning before I left for work.

After the first coat of paint had dried, I very lightly sanded the sideboard by hand and then wiped off all residue before applying the second coat.

Step 5: Assembly

The instructions for this paint say to allow it to dry for 3-5 days before putting the item into service, so we waited until Wednesday evening to move our sideboard into the kitchen and do final assembly. This involved installing cup drawer pulls on the drawers, and installing the shelf in the large compartment.

Remember that caulk I had regretted using? Unfortunately, we had measured and cut the shelf before I’d caulked the inside of the large compartment, and now we couldn’t get the shelf into place. It was just a little too tight. So, I pulled out my detail sander and methodically sanded the back and one side of the shelf, removing 1/32 of an inch at a time, until we could get it into place.

To support the shelf, Hubby bought a 1×1″ piece of wood and cut two 12″ lengths, and I painted them with one coat of paint on two sides and both ends. (I didn’t see the need to paint the two sides that would be against the shelf and the sideboard wall, and since these supports wouldn’t be visible under the shelf, a single coat of paint seemed sufficient.)

After calculating how high we wanted the shelf, Hubby took a piece of leftover 2×4″ from his scrap box and cut it to the height needed to hold the support in the right place while he screwed it in.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard
This prop made from scrap wood helped us install the shelf supports.

Once the supports were installed, the shelf simply sat on top of them.

Behold our custom sideboard that fits our space perfectly! The result surpasses our expectations, and we are thrilled.

DIY project: Converting a dresser into a sideboard

What made our initial effort at furniture renovation turn out in such a satisfactory way? We think there were several things:

  • I did a lot of research online before we started, and Hubby and I talked through each stage thoroughly.
  • Hubby has some solid skills with power tools.
  • We invested in good quality primer and paint.
  • We never tried to rush the process (especially the painting).
  • We’re a great team. 🙂

The entire project took 26 days from the day we bought the dresser to the day we placed the finished sideboard in our kitchen, with the majority of the work done on weekends and a long Thanksgiving break.

Post script: We bought a gallon each of the primer and the blue paint, and we have so much left over that we’ve decided our next project will be to paint our bottom kitchen cabinets to match the sideboard. My new detail sander will come in very handy for this project. Stay tuned.

Did this blog post help you? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!

How two furniture-refinishing neophytes successfully converted a dresser into a sideboard – and what we learned in the process.

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